The Yoruba language is a part of the Niger-Congo language family and belongs to the Defoid category of the Benue-Congo subgroup of languages. There are two main subgroups of the Defoid group of languages. They are the Akokoid cluster and the Yoruboid cluster. The Akokoid cluster is considered to be a smaller one and includes four languages, while the Yoruboid cluster includes such languages as Yoruba, Igala, and Itsekiri among others. The Yoruba language itself is considered to be one of the major African languages with a population of speakers estimated at 20 million people.
Historically, the Yoruba language is associated with one of three largest ethnic groups in Nigeria known as Yoruba ethnic group. That is probably why the language is considered to be one of the most important languages in this region. It is worth to mention that Yoruba has the greatest number of native speakers. Although there is an African language with a greater number of speakers – Swahili, most of its speakers use the language as a second one, while Yoruba language speakers mostly use the language as their first language. Today, Yoruba is spoken in southwestern Nigeria, Benin, and Togo.
The Yoruba language has a number of dialects. Nevertheless, the main three are North-West Yoruba, Central Yoruba, and South-East Yoruba. The main difference between these dialects lies in the spoken language. Also, the language has a standardized written form developed in the late 19th century.
The efforts to create a standardized written Yoruba were initially made by English missionaries and priests. Previously, the written language used the Ajami script and the Latin script became a standard after the translation of the Bible in 1884 by the Bishop Samuel Crowther. It was exactly the same person who published the first Yoruba grammar.
The development of a standardized written form of the Yoruba was the beginning of the development of a great body of Yoruba language literature. It is worth to mention that some of Yoruba literature gained recognition at the international level. The best-known Yoruba-language authors include D.O. Fagunwa, Amos Tutuola, and Afolabi Olabimtan.
Today, the Yoruba language is taught in schools and universities, as well as it is used on television, radio, and newspapers.